..MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives Thursday evening approved on second reading the proposed P2.006-trillion General Appropriations Act for 2013 described by the administration as "an empowerment budget."
The allocation, the largest proposed ever, never faced serious opposition even from the House minority bloc which has four members whose congressional districts are being denied their share of the P70 million of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Unlike past budget deliberations that ran until the early morning of the last session day, the second reading approval of the budget measure or House Bill 6455 came early, as predicted by Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II.
Gonzales said the proposal came a day ahead of the original schedule at 10:35 p.m. Thursday.
"We are very much ahead of the schedule and we assure that accountability and transparency are the primary considerations in the disbursement of funds," said Gonzales.
Only Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay stood up against the measure, grilling newly appointed Transportation and Communications Secretary and incumbent Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya on why the Department of Budget and Management has continued to ignore appeals for the release of PDAF for four opposition lawmakers.
Magsaysay, together with Lakas-CMD Representatives Augusto Syjuco of Iloilo; and Mikey Arroyo of Ang Galing Pinoy partylist and his brother, Dato Arroyo of Camarines Sur, are the only House members who haven't received their PDAF.
Saying that she has not been given any satisfactory answer to her queries, Magsaysay moved for a roll call after noting the apparent lack of quorum last night.
For unexplained reasons, Minority Leader Danilo Suarez later declared that Magsaysay had authorized him to withdraw her motion.
The remaining budget proposals approved yesterday were those presented by the Departments of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Education (DepEd), Energy (DoE), Finance (DoF), Budget and Management (DBM), other Executive offices, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and their attached agencies.
Yesterday, the plenary discussed the budget proposals of the Office of the President, Congress of the Philippines, Departments of Agrarian Reform (DaR), Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Interior and Local Government (DILG), Office of the President and attached agencies.
The top 10 departments that will receive highest allocations are Education, P292.7 billion; Public Works and Highways, P152.9 billion; Defense, P121.6 billion; Interior and Local Governments, P121.1 billion; Agriculture, P74.1 billion; Health P56.8 billion; Social Welfare Development, P56.32 billion; Transportation and Communications, P37.1 billion; Finance, P33.2 billion and Environment and Natural resources, P23.7 billion.
The Education budget increased by 22.6 percent, DPWH by 21 percent and Defense by 12.5 percent.
The DILG's share will be bigger by 21.3, bringing the agency's proposed 2013 budget to P121.1 billion.
Agriculture will get a 20.6-percent increase, with allocation rising to P74.1 billion.
Health will receive the highest increase for the next fiscal year with P56.8 billion, up by 24 percent.
President Benigno S. Aquino III submitted the budget proposal in July, saying that the proposed expenditure plan contained a 2013 Empowerment Budget that was "consistent with our macroeconomic and fiscal aspiration for the next fiscal year and in the medium term."
"Above that, this budget is a crucial step in our continuing pursuit of good governance-governance that will give our impoverished countrymen the opportunity to lift themselves out of their situations; governance that will ensure that this country moves forward together," Aquino stated in his budget message.